Archaeology and Antiquities


jallad

In most world history survey courses, Arabia is introduced for the first time only as backstory to the rise of Islam. We’re told that there was a tradition of oral poetry in Arabic, a language native to central Arabia, and that the Qur’an was the zenith of this oral tradition. New evidence, however, suggests that Arabia was linguistically diverse, that the language we’ve come to know as Arabic originated in modern day Jordan, and that the looping cursive writing system that’s become the language’s hallmark wasn’t the original system used to write it. What to make of all this?

Guest Ahmad al-Jallad co-directs archaeological/epigraphic projects in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, uncovering new inscriptions thousands of years old, and shares his research that’s shedding new light on the writings of a complex civilization that lived in the Arabian peninsula for centuries before Islam arose.

Click here to hear the broadcast.

met

You can download fifty years of publications by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for free. Yes, for free. There are books on the art of Islamic Spain, Egypt, the Near East, etc. Check it out here.

burial

Early Medieval Muslim Graves in France: First Archaeological, Anthropological and Palaeogenomic Evidence

Yves Gleize ,
Fanny Mendisco ,
Marie-Hélène Pemonge,
Christophe Hubert,
Alexis Groppi,
Bertrand Houix,
Marie-France Deguilloux,
Jean-Yves Breuil

Published in PLOS/ONE, February 24, 2016

Abstract

The rapid Arab-Islamic conquest during the early Middle Ages led to major political and cultural changes in the Mediterranean world. Although the early medieval Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula is now well documented, based in the evaluation of archeological and historical sources, the Muslim expansion in the area north of the Pyrenees has only been documented so far through textual sources or rare archaeological data. Our study provides the first archaeo-anthropological testimony of the Muslim establishment in South of France through the multidisciplinary analysis of three graves excavated at Nimes. First, we argue in favor of burials that followed Islamic rites and then note the presence of a community practicing Muslim traditions in Nimes. Second, the radiometric dates obtained from all three human skeletons (between the 7th and the 9th centuries AD) echo historical sources documenting an early Muslim presence in southern Gaul (i.e., the first half of 8th century AD). Finally, palaeogenomic analyses conducted on the human remains provide arguments in favor of a North African ancestry of the three individuals, at least considering the paternal lineages. Given all of these data, we propose that the skeletons from the Nimes burials belonged to Berbers integrated into the Umayyad army during the Arab expansion in North Africa. Our discovery not only discusses the first anthropological and genetic data concerning the Muslim occupation of the Visigothic territory of Septimania but also highlights the complexity of the relationship between the two communities during this period.

For the complete article, click here.

sanaaart

With reports of Saudi coalition troops massing on the border to invade Yemen, the situation in Yemen gets even more dangerous. Will the beautiful Old City of Sanaa become the next Aleppo?

This Mountains of Central Asia Digital Dataset (MCADD) consists of a collection of books, journals and maps related broadly to the Himalayas and its outlying attached ranges including the Hindu Kush, the Karakorams, the Pamirs, the Tian Shan and the Kuen Lun as well as the Tibetan highlands and the Tarim basin. These materials are housed in this site, and are freely available for personal non-commercial use and downloading.

Some of this material was originally downloaded from the Google Books website, but often this material from Google has been augmented by the addition of maps and other oversize materials that were excluded when the original Google scans were done and/or the addition of missing pages. For example, the Google scans of the 50 volumes of the Royal Geographical Society Journal, published between 1830 and 1880 do not include any of the oversize maps—these maps have all now been scanned and some 450 maps added in their proper location to each of the journal volume pdf files on the PAHAR website.

Various aids to searching specific topics, such as indexes of articles related to the MCADD geographic area (Himalaya, Tibet and Central Asia) have also been prepared for the more prolific journals, such as those of the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Central Asian Society, and the Asiatic Society of Bengal. (more…)

Heritagedaily.com, November 11, 2013.

“These are not the ruins you’re looking for!”

In 2012 Italian photographer Rä di Martino spent more than a year wandering the desert towns of Morocco and Tunisia, on her journey she came across the curious remnants of another world…

‘A long time ago in a galaxy far away’ these words are so familiar as to be short hand for the beginning of a grand adventure! Much like the immortal words ‘Once upon a time’ or ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ they are arresting and instantly significant. For generations they have peaked the interest of the movie-going public and almost like a mass pavlovian experiment, we can scarcely stop ourselves from re-playing the grand opening phrases of John Williams’ iconic score in our heads – perhaps making raspy lightsaber noises with pursed lips as we thrash our arms about… Just like a ‘real’ Jedi.

We return to Rä coming upon the ruins of ‘Tatooine’ as one might approach the standing structure of Karnak or even the megaliths of Stonehenge. Though while those ruins are of cultures from the distant past, these are of cultures from the depths of human imagination. Some stand alone in the desert while others have been incorporated into towns and homesteads. She found the juxtaposition of these remnants of ‘another world’ and ‘real’ ruins fascinating and decided to feature them in a series of photographs entitled ‘Every World’s A Stage’. (more…)


When you watch an ISIS online video, remember who is the inspiration.

ISIS or Da’ash or whatever you want to call the latest reality internet show from the Middle East has an active propaganda machine right out of the playbook of Herr Goebbels. If it is not choreographed beheadings or other atrocities meant to cause terror, it is trying to efface and erase the past. The area that ISIS appears to have nominal control over is one of the most extensive archaeological mine fields in the world, with lots of object on display in museums. One of the latest videos is of the bashing of statues in the Mosul Museum. At first glance one can only shake one’s head (and perhaps use the index finger raised in an appropriate gesture) at such a destructive act. But as in all propaganda, the shame factor is the elephant in the display room. Fortunately for the real objects, the hammers are smithereening plaster casts for the most part. Unless ISIS slithers its way into Baghdad, which may require a Mahdi or two to accomplish, the real finds are safe thus far. This does not mean that there has not been irreplaceable damage done to historical objects and sites already.

The current game plan of the primary actors in the conflict, apart from those who seem to delight in mayhem, is to bomb ISIS one pick-up truck at a time and to drone in on leaders from satellite data. This may take some time, no matter how many planes are sent on missions over a rather vast stretch of territory. Some day the local armies on “our” side will have sufficient training and resources (to replenish those taken without much resistance by ISIS) to go in and battle the militants directly. In the meantime (and it is a very mean time indeed), another major front is the propaganda war broadcast digitally. The toppling of a plaster cast of Ashurbanipal, the long-dead Assyrian king, is not likely to bring any converts to Islam, but it may resonate with disaffected youth who see a chance to leave their video game warcraft and get a taste of the “real” thing. I do not think those of us who are appalled by such acts need to watch these intentionally propagandic videos. They are meant to fan the flames of Islamophobia and thus to attract more radicals. The best way to counter such propaganda is not to make an issue out of it, which is the Fox News feed-the-hate approach. It helps to expose the artificiality of it, but that is secondary.

In videos like the one on the Mosul Museum bashing I recommend calculated not benign neglect. I debated whether to even write this post, as I have certainly had enough of the mountain of commentary on ISIS already. If you do watch the video, know what you are seeing and why the makers want you to see it. And remember who the real inspiration is behind such outrageous outreach. But if you can avoid seeing it altogether, the propaganda value may be diminished by at least one person at a time.

The Republican Party, inebriated with tea partisanship, seems to shoot itself in its elephantine trunk in attracting presidential candidates. This certainly worked to Romney’s favor last time around, as he certainly looked far more presidential than “what-was-the-third-one” Rick Perry, Call 999 and pay your taxes Mr. Cain, Sarah “I can see Alaska from my bedroom” Palin, Ron “I will run even when I am in my grave” Paul and the other circus acts that paraded through the primaries in 2012. Once again we are seeing a run (at the mouth some times) of former Governor and Fox News celebrity Mike Huckabee. He is apparently willing to overlook the fact that having two presidents from the state of Arkansas within only a couple of decades is going against Las Vegas odds. But here he is again, hitting the mash potato and Bible verse quoting circuit and about as Iowa bound as a candidate can get.

The latest bit of Huckabeeswax has a nasty sting to it. Echoing the Gold Meir canard that there are no “Palestinians” on his most recent Bible Land tour (I suspect that Huckabee is guilty of not reading Twain’s Innocents Abroad), the Arkansas traveler said that there aint no such thing (well he is reported to have said “is” no such thing but who knows what the meaning of “is” really is) as a Palestinian. “The idea that they have a long history, dating back hundreds or thousands of years, is not true,” Huckabee said.

So if there are no “Palestinians” but only “Arabs” who made up the term to spite Israel and drive them into the sea, who exactly was living in Eretz Israel before 1948. Here are some scenarios. (more…)

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